The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers did battle Thursday night in an early-season statement game for the two AFC West rivals. It was a playoff-like atmosphere with Amazon Prime broadcasting its first ever “Thursday Night Football Game.”
Both Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes did their thing. However, neither quarterback played a huge role in the outcome of the game. Rather, it was a certain Chiefs rookie cornerback who put up the game-changing play of the night.
Kansas City overcame a 10-0 first-half deficit inside Arrowhead Stadium to come away with the hard-fought 27-24 victory. Meanwhile, Herbert was injured late in the game after being under pressure throughout the evening. Below, we look at the five biggest winners and losers from the Kansas City Chiefs narrow win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
Winner: Asante Samuel Jr. continues great sophomore season
It’s looking more and more like Los Angeles got an absolute steal with Samuel Jr. in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Florida State product was good as a rookie, recording 11 passes defended and two interceptions. However, he’s taken his game to a whole new level early on in his sophomore campaign.
In last week’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders, Samuel Jr. registered two passes defended and an interception of Derek Carr. He also allowed the signal caller to complete just 6-of-11 passes while yielding a 67.6 passer rating when targets. Samuel Jr. was more than up to the task against Kansas City Thursday night, too. That included a near interception of Mahomes.
At the end of the evening, Samuel Jr. had recorded four tackles and a pass defended while allowing a mere three completions in the game. This kid is absolutely legit.
Loser: Los Angeles Chargers coaching staff
Star quarterback Justin Herbert was injured in the fourth quarter after taking a violent hit to the rib area. He exited the game for just one play before returning. However, the star quarterback made his way back on to the field and led the Chargers down the field for a touchdown to pull the game within three late in the final stanza.
At issue here is the fact that Herbert was actually playing. Anyone watching the game knew that the star quarterback was nowhere near 100%. He was continually seen in pain on the field, pointing to both his rib and lung areas. Outside of the possibility that Herbert could’ve suffered a more serious injury, having him on the field in a desperate situation with your team down 10 points in a Week 2 outing just didn’t make much sense. We’ll have to see exactly what happens with Herbert moving forward. But for now, this is not a great look for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs star Chris Jones dominates
The Los Angeles Chargers’ offensive line is considered one of the strenghts of the team. It’s led by young left tackle Rashawn Slater and a Pro Bowl-caliber center in that of Corey Linsley. We knew that Kansas City had to put pressure on Herbert if it was going to find a way to mask a greenish secondary.
That’s exactly what Jones did throughout, dominating the Chargers’ offensive line in the process. The three-time Pro Bowler had a coming out party on national television with two sacks of Herbert. He pressured Los Angeles’ star quarterback five times thoughout the game, too. Providing this type of pressure from the interior of the defensive line is underrated in today’s NFL. And in reality, Jones made a major impact in this one.
Loser: Austin Ekeler must be better for the Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is considered one of the better all-around running backs in the NFL. His ability to catch the ball has made him an imortant compontent on the Chargers’ offense. In 16 games last season, the former undrafted free agent from Western State put up 1,558 total yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per touch.
We’re not seeing the same production early during the 2022 campaign. Ekeler tallied 39 yards on 14 attempts against the Chiefs. He also put up a mere 55 yards on nine receptions. That’s an average of 4.1 yards per touch. Remember, he gained a mere 36 yards on the ground against the Las Vegas Raiders last week. That’s just not the balance Los Angeles needs behind Justin Herbert on offense.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs rookie comes to play big time
A rookie seventh-round pick, cornerback Jaylen Watson did not disappoint in his first NFL starting action, putting up a game-changing play early in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 17. The former Washington State star picked of a Justin Herbert pass at the Chiefs’ one-yard line and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown.
Watson was getting the start for fellow rookie, first-round pick Trent McDuffie. The latter suffered an injury last week and is out at least four games after being placed on injured reserve. Watson came to play big time, pretty much winning this for the Kansas City Chiefs in the process.